Uninformed Comment

Khan As’ad Pasha

Posted in Architecture, Geography, History, Old but cool, OpenSim by uninformedcomment on April 30, 2009
What on Earth is this?

What on Earth is this?

So I thought when my girlfriend gave me a link to a photo of this unusual striped building.  We’re both fascinated by unusual old buildings, and this pushes all the right buttons – arches, domes, geometry, sheer beauty.  I wasn’t so keen on the stripy theme at first – in fact, horizontal stripes rarely make anything look good –  but I even warmed to that.

So, with only a bare URL to go on, the next day I did some digging online and found the answer to my question.

It’s a khan – aka a caravanserai (Santana, anyone?) – that is, a kind of articificial oasis where travelling traders would stop to replenish themselves and their horses, camels, etc, doing some trading and catching up on sleep.  They’re usually semi-covered courtyards, with inward-facing rooms around the sides in a square shape.  The rooms would be used by traders to sell their wares, or by local people selling goods like food and other supplies to the travellers.

This particular khan is the Khan As’ad Pasha in Damascus, Syria, built in 1752 and restored in the 1990s, and it’s gorgeous.

Here’s its Wikipedia entry.

In layout, the khan consists of nine interconnected dome-topped square areas, with those beautiful linked arches, echoed in a second-floor gallery surrounding the edges; eighty rooms off the gallery served as places to sleep, while the shops surround the ground floor.

The whole is built with that distinctive basalt-and-limestone layered stone, and lit by gas or oil lamps or by daylight through the elevated clerestory domes.  In the centre is a marble fountain that reflects the striped motif at 90°:

There’s enough information out there to make me want very much to attempt reconstruction in OpenSim.  It just cries out for it.  The OpenSim platform (and, to a slightly more limited extent, Second Life) allows the creation of 3D virtual objects of pretty much any size, shape and complexity, and buildings in particular are well-suited.

The wonderful thing about these creations is that they’re completely integrated to the virtual world – using your avatar, you can walk around them, outside and in, furnish them, sit in them, see them at different angles, distances and times of day and night, even have sex in them.  Try that with a matchstick model.  Well, thinking about it, don’t.  Ouch.

The one thing I’ve so far been unable to locate is any decent photograph of the khan from the outside.  If you know of one, please do let me know.

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